47 Things Bray Has That You Simply Won't Get In Dublin
The Martello Function Room, Henry and Rose, and the fanciest McDonald's in the world...
Bray – the little coastal town that literally props up Dublin.
That's right: literally. Experts* agree that if Bray didn't exist, Dublin would quite simply fall into the ocean – and then everyone would get soaked, and probably quite annoyed, and basically the whole weekend would be ruined.
So in honour of the town that keeps it all together, I'm casting aside my job title for one day to bring you this definitive list of reasons why Bray is – let's face it – better than Dublin.
Did I forget anything?
1. The function room in the Martello
According to local legislation, anyone who didn’t have their 21st here is not really from Bray – and is thus subject to ejection from the town by means of a catapult operated by King of Bray Mick Glynn.
2. An aquarium that has a seafood restaurant upstairs
Hmm. This placing definitely prompts some uncomfortable questions from inquisitive children.
But who cares? Barracuda is one of the best damn seafood restaurants on the east coast of Ireland.
He was on Jimmy Kimmel this week. What was your town's most prominent singer-songwriter doing, eh?
4. A church that looks like a ski-slope
Of course Hozier's best-known song was not a scathing commentary on the role of Catholicism in shaping the Irish psyche.
It was, in fact, the simple plea of a man who just wanted to go skiing.
5. The Harbour Bar
Lonely Planet called it the best pub in the world.
In the world.
6. A mountain with a cross on top
As we reported last week, the cross on top of Bray Head was placed there because Jesus stated in his will: "If I have to go through the whole crucifixion thing again, I at least want to have a decent view."
And Jaws. And The Archery. And even Teddy's, which recently set up shop in the gorgeous little kiosks along the seafront.
Sorry, Dun Laoghaire, but this is the Irish capital of ice cream.
8. The Koo
Where dreams are made. And broken.
9. Knickers and Dead Man
These legendary characters may be long gone from the streets of Bray, but their memory continues to terrify anyone who grew up there during the 1990s.
10. A Chinese takeaway called Soon Fatt
11. Dockyard Number 8
The best eggs benedict for miles around, and a cracking place to get a coffee and breathe in the sea air.
Oh, and they now open nights as well.
All the talk recently has been about Platform Pizza, which opened up in the old Katie Gallagher's site in 2013 – but roll back the clock a bit, and you'll see that the ingeniously titled Pizzas'n'Cream is far more deeply rooted in the history of delicious cheesy goodness in this town.
Finnbees is to Bray what Starbucks is to the rest of the world – you can't turn your head without coming across one, and the rate of expansion is such that you half-expect one to pop up in your living room while you head off to the bathroom during the ads.
No surprise either; the coffee is sublime.
14. The fanciest McDonalds in the world
Hey, how's the chandelier in your local McDonald's?
What's that? It doesn't have any?
15. Wyvern Lingo... and the musical dynasties
Perched outside the McDonald's/Town Hall is a statue called the Wyvern – he once caused a scandal in the town when he was taken off to be cleaned, only to be secretly replaced by a replica. But I digress.
From this fella (below) came the name of Wyvern Lingo, an absolutely crackingly good three-piece band who came to prominence as Hozier's backing singers, and are very quickly following in his footsteps by showing the world that nobody makes music quite like the people of Bray.
And the musical magic doesn't stop there – in Wyvern Lingo alone, you've got Saoirse Duane, whose sister Caoimhe (aka Queeva) is a part of Hozier's backing band and a super singer-songwriter in her own right. Their brother Cillian was part of the much-loved and much-missed Big September – one of the most underrated indie bands to emerge from Ireland in the last 10 years – while Wyvern Lingo's Caoimhe Barry is brother to Dan, who's one of the most highly rated guitarists in Ireland, and has staged a scene with half the top bands in the country.
Wyvern Lingo play Whelan's tomorrow night, and if you head along, you may just inhale some of the magic.
16. The coolest Martello Tower of all
When Bono stripped the top off this Martello Tower to turn it into a glorified greenhouse, it probably caused massive outcry across the town... but to be fair, it's fit in well to the landscape and looks pretty damn good now.
17. The best little wine bar on the east coast…
Carpe Diem on Albert Avenue. We defy you to find better.
18. … and the Italian quarter in general
A smattering of Italian restaurants, vinoteche, enoteche and gelateria all focused on a few square metres around Albert Avenue... nobody knows quite why this Little Little Italy developed when and where it did, but good lord, we love it.
19. Dawsons (RIP)
20. Henry and Rose
Because why should a night out end when the clubs close? Particularly when you've got top-class chips and battered onion rings such as those on offer here; that alcohol isn't going to damage your body all on its own, you know.
21. Brunel’s folly
Isambard Kingdom Brunel – the greatest engineer of all time – never liked to do things with simplicity when he could do it with a flourish – see, for instance, the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol (below). So when he was contracted to build the extension of the Dublin-Bray line out to Greystones, he opted to go around the outside of Bray Head rather than taking the line inland. Why? Because who could resist those gorgeous sea views, he reasoned.
The result, unfortunately, was a construction project that went massively over budget, and has since cost more per mile to maintain than any other section of line in the UK or Ireland thanks to soft rock, coastal erosion and the general difficulty of having staff work off the side of a mountain.
GO TEAM BRAY!
22. BYOB Bowling
Sure, this exists at the Leisureplex in Stillorgan. But statistics that I just made up off the top of my head have conclusively shown that it's far, FAR more craic when you do it in Bray Bowl.
23. An art installation in the train station
Get your head out of your phone, and do some picture-based learning while you wait for your train. This series of paintings – currently being upgraded to mosaics – documents the history of the station from its inception up to the present day, and is just about as entertaining a way to while away time on a platform as you could possibly imagine.
And it even featured on Nationwide once.
That's why we're so much smarter than the rest of the world.
24. This insanely cool bandstand
In the 1940s, there was an act known as Sergeant Pepper's Big Brass Band who regularly played the bandstand on the seafront during the summer holiday season. And given that Bray was a popular destination for middle-class English tourists at this time of year – from Liverpool, for instance – it's often speculated that the most famous rock'n'roll album of all time may actually draw its inspiration from a small seaside town in Co Wicklow.
But it's just speculation.
25. Katie Taylor
Our top fighter can beat up your top fighter.
Deal with it. Or else.
(Not that we made much of a fuss when she came back from London or anything... we'd be far too cool for that kind of thing.)
26. The original Porter House
Temple Bar, Glasnevin, Nassau Street and even London... none of them would even exist if not for the one that started it all, right here on Bray seafront.
27. Wicklow Wolf
The coolest craft beer brand to emerge in this country in the last five years, located just off the Quinsboro Road – and one that featured on our list of the Top 10 Red Ales quite recently.
28. Bray Emmets
Wicklow is one of only two counties in Ireland never to have won a provincial championship in GAA (the other is Fermanagh), but we do actually have an All Ireland title to our name. Kinda.
In the days before inter-county football, in the late 19th century, counties were represented by individual clubs – and Bray Emmets once brought national glory to the Garden County. For a week.
A spell of torrential rain caused the Dublin representatives to assume that the final wouldn't be played, and so they didn't show up. However, Bray and the ref did – and a walkover was given, meaning Wicklow were declared champions. It didn't last long - a replay was ordered for the following week, and Dublin triumphed.
29. The Village Gate Arcade
Home to some quirky shops and an always-bustling atmosphere, this is one of the town's most charming little enclaves. The queen may not have visited it and laughed her arse off with a fishmonger like she did in Cork... but whatever. We don't need her.
30. The fact that, for years, there was a sex shop located next door to the local musical instrument retailer
Never before has asking for a 'G-string' been so laden with risk.
31. Kilruddery House (and Hell & Back)
It's home to Lord Meath, who still (on paper at least) owns vast swathes of land across the town.
And, just like Slane, it's also become a phenomenal public entity – not just the home and gardens, which are open to the public, but also the demesne which is used for gigs and the winder grounds which are used for the exceedingly fun Hell & Back.
32. A cash-and-carry in which The Who and Roy Orbison once played gigs
It may look like a derelict warehouse that, sadly, doesn't really give visitors an amazing first impression of the town as they step off the train.
But this humble building, opposite Henry and Rose, used to be the Arcadia Ballroom – and among the acts who played there were The Everly Brothers, The Hollies, Roy Orbison and The Who.
All the fuss is about Henry and Rose, and its late-night opening has helped it to carve out a very special place in the lore of Bray nightlife.
But real locals know that this is where you go to get the best fish and chips in town... in fact, it's so good it even made our Top 10 Fish and Chip Shops In Dublin, despite the fact Bray isn't even in Dublin.
Yup. So good it defies administrative borders.
34. The spookiest hotel in Ireland
Creepy from the outside, but actually quite homely and nice from the inside – it's the Bray Head Inn.
Still. If you were filming a horror movie, you'd have to put this up on top of the list.
35. The Harbour Bar
So good it deserves to be mentioned twice.
Take a look around its intricate interior on Google Maps, by clicking here.
36. Sea kayaking
Thanks to Bray Adventures – formerly East Coast Kayaks – because kayaking in the Grand Canal Basin or the Liffey is for the weak of spirit, and the weak of core.
37. Strongbow woz 'ere
Before he started making cider, Strongbow was a prominent Norman warrior. And while he could have lived anywhere he damn pleased – his name was Strongbow, for goodness' sake – he chose Bray.
Here he is getting married to Aoife. The wedding was in Waterford, but the honeymoon was in Bray, naturally.
38. Bray Wanderers
The former yo-yo club who finally found Premier League stability in recent years, they've brought drama and glory to the town in recent years – and are poised to add one of the all-time greats to their ranks very soon, with rumours of a Damien Duff deal growing stronger by the day.
In addition to all that, the Carlisle Grounds were used as the location for the Bloody Sunday scene in Neil Jordan's Michael Collins. So the real message here is that it's actually better than Croke Park – Hollywood said so.
39. A haunted primary school that used to be a hospital
The beautiful yet utterly terrifying St Patrick's National School.
I spent the first three years of my school life there, and I'm telling you, it's haunted. I feel much of the town's population will back me up on this.
40. A cablecar
Well. A former cablecar.
It used to take people from the foot of Bray Head halfway up the hill, where a small café would serve refreshments alongside a stunning sea view. It fell into disrepair, though, and snapped in the middle of the night... a spooky image if ever there was one.
41. Dara O Briain
We were giving out about the Dubs stealing him long before Ireland was giving out about the UK stealing him.
42. Chicks in the window in Anvil
Baby chickens. In the window of the local hardware shop. Surrounded by little houses and decorations. Before Easter. Every year.
Okay, yeah, now that you put it that way it is actually a little strange...
Remember Skyfest in Dublin? Well, long after ye gave up on that little charade, we continued our tradition of spending half the town's annual budget on a 10-minute flurry of skyborne chemicals.
44. Scenery that would knock your socks off
It's a pleasant stroll to the top of Bray Head – despite how it looks from the bottom – and once you get there, you quickly realise that it would be worth every last step even if it were a hike through the Himalayas.
45. The gateway to the Garden of Ireland
As if Bray wasn't good enough on its own, it's also the entrance point to the most spectacular and stunning county in the entire land.
It's seldom enough that Bray people identify themselves as being from Wicklow – the town in itself is generally the identifying factor – but that doesn't mean we're not insanely proud of it.
46. It's generally just the best bloody town in Ireland
Sorry, rest of Ireland. But we win this one.
47. Liquid and The Tube
OH GOOD GOD we nearly forgot.
That was close.
* Not really